Towards A Good Samaritan World

Sunday, May 22, 2005


Back in March, I wrote:

The Rose Revolution. The Orange Revolution. The Purple-Finger Revolution. Now the Cedar Revolution. Revolution is in the air. Democrats and dissidents are taking heart; dictators and tyrants are nervous. People power is on the move.

We've been here before. In 1989-91, the Soviet empire, from Prague to Kazakhstan, spectacularly collapsed. There were other democratic stirrings going on, too: Violeto Chamorro beat the Sandinistas in an election in Nicaragua; Vietnam undertook democratic reforms; and Saddam was driven out of Kuwait. Bush hailed a new world order.

But not in China. Whereas the Soviets ultimately stopped short of resorting to bloodshed to prevent the disintegration of their empire, the Chinese did not. They massacred thousands of pro-democracy activists in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and maintained their grip on power.

What is awkward for sympathizers of the liberal theory of history is that China, where the center held, was far more successful than the ex-Soviet bloc, where it did not.

I went on to predict that this "year of revolutions," like that of 1989-91 (or those of 1848, for that matter) would end with a Tienanmen-type event:

At some point, this wave of democratization may meet its Tiananmen. Some authoritarian regime-- not in Beirut, I think, but somewhere-- will violently crush a popular protest.

Well, I was right. News from Uzbekistan (one of my favorite countries in the world, by the way, where I spent my first spontaneous "honeymoon" with my wife):

THE full horror of what happened in eastern Uzbekistan on Friday May 13th has yet to emerge. But an opposition leader claims to have compiled a list of 745 people gunned down by government troops in Andizhan and Pakhtabad. Of these, more than 500 were slaughtered when the soldiers opened fire on a crowd protesting in Andizhan against President Islam Karimov, the Central Asian republic’s authoritarian leader.

But was I right to hint that the next Tiananmen might be justified? I concluded the post cryptically:

And as history's judgment on that massacre gradually takes shape in the years that follow, that judgment will be an ambiguous one.

No, I take it back. Uzbekistan would be better off without Karimov. And we can certainly afford to withdraw our troops and support from his country. There's no need reason for us to let the blood of Andijan taint us.


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